Sweet things in life

Dennis Bardens

LONDON Freelance Branch presented a bottle of champagne to Dennis Bardens, probably our oldest member, on the occasion of his 92nd birthday on 19 July. The crowd testified to a colourful and productive life, including as it did the King of Burma, assorted ghost-hunter contacts from his books and perhaps the odd actual spook from his time "attached to the Foreign Office" at the end of the Second World War.

He went on to be founding editor of Panorama. As he told a Branch meeting in 2001, "the BBC often forgets this, and when they do I sue." By one account he coined the name of the programme as he stared out of an upper-storey office window at the, er, vista of London in search of inspiration. The list of apologies was dominated by the entire roster of Fleetwood Mac - the band got started with his offer of rehearsal space.

Sally Cripps met him for the first time on the day. She is Divisional Superintendent of Feltham St. John Ambulance and was asked to organise his transfer from hospital for the event. She was moved to track down the Freelance and wrote:

"I only hope that I helped to make the birthday a memorable occasion, not only for Dennis, but for the many friends who came along to celebrate with him. Although Dennis is very ill he did manage a smile or two and just before we drove him back to hospital he sang, in a fading voice, 'Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries':

Why are we here? Where are we going? It's time that we found out.
We're not here to stay; we're on a short holiday.
Life is just a bowl of cherries.
Don't take it serious; it's too mysterious...

"The picture of all his friends at the back of the ambulance waving and cheering and him singing will stay with me forever. I'm glad I've shared a couple of hours with this lovely man."

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